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Conference argy-bargy in Bournemouth

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Victoria Derbyshire | 10:00 UK time, Thursday, 24 September 2009

Victoria Derbyshire in Bournemouth

Can you remember the world, pre-expenses, of 12 months ago? Think back to last year's party conferences... The bizarre 'announcement' in the early of hours of the morning by one Damian McBride in a luxurious Manchester hotel that Ruth Kelly was to step down from the Cabinet to spend more time with her family. It was a big story then but seems small beer compared to the week in June this year when Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears and Caroline Flint all quit the cabinet.

The atmosphere at Labour's conference was febrile - everyone was talking about Gordon Brown's leadership (again). It was only his second conference as PM and David Miliband wanted his job apparently (then he was papped with a banana and that was the end of that). During my live radio programme involving Labour politicians and two hundred voters in a Jehovah's Witness church in central Manchester a couple of unlikely bedfellows found themselves sitting alongside each other - and in agreement on one issue: Charles Clarke and Graham Stringer both wanted Brown out and a leadership election to follow. They made rather a charming couple I seem to remember.

A week later in Birmingham a bemused Michael Heseltine found himself mobbed by sixth form politics students at the end of our show. Everyone wanted a picture taken with him on their mobile phone. I genuinely think after about 7 minutes of this he was worried about his security, as he requested my then Assistant Editor, a powerful woman who takes no stick, to escort him out of the building. His exact words were, "Can you please get me out of here now?".

Party conference radio programmes are some of the liveliest I've presented in 15 years of broadcasting. The politicians are up for it, the audience is up for it. Rarely do voters come face to face with those who affect their lives and wallets, let alone get to question them face-to-face. My over-riding thought from last year is how much MPs themselves relished the opportunity to debate with listeners the merits or otherwise of their proposals for the country and it's certainly a joy (and a challenge) to conduct a good old-fashioned debate. The aforementioned Charles Clarke was in his element, Iain Duncan Smith won over the Birmingham audience with his research into the links between antisocial behaviour and family breakdown.

Andrew Lansley found he had time to go into detail about how the Tories would change the NHS. One chap from Stockport asked Ed Miliband if Gordon ever smiled - maybe Ed fed it back to his good friend prompting the YouTube grin months later? David Blunkett and Jacqui Smith were like a double act and Michal Ancram seemed slightly overwhelmed. Prospective parliamentary candidates came to cut their teeth (one left when I raised my eyebrows at one of his scripted answers) and everyone enjoyed the croissants, pastries and coffee.

It's like Question Time but better: there's no top table - the politicians are sitting in amongst the audience, we've got three hours to get tucked into the details of education, health and crime policies and not every conversation has to go via the host: radio magic occurs when I can step back because a listener is confident about questioning a politician directly. Plus this year of course we have the backdrop of the expenses scandal.

Having 'done' the Liberal Democrat conference on Monday it was fascinating to hear that voters appeared to be angrier about banks that taxpayers now effectively own not lending money to small businesses who are struggling. There was plenty of heat and because we had the time, there was plenty of light. Nick Clegg explained his so-called mansion tax and it was pretty popular with the crowd. By the way each audience is made up of a balance of Lib Dem, Conservative and Labour voters, as well as swing voters and those who haven't yet made up their minds. Most but not all are 5 live listeners.

Next it's Brighton and Manchester. Labour has a lot to lose and the Tories won't want to put a foot wrong. On Monday in Bournemouth, we launched something new. MPs are given a copy of the Green Book - their guide to the allowances and expenses they can claim. 5 live listeners are going to write the Little Black Book*. This will be a guidebook for every MP voted in at the next election. It will be a checklist of what voters want and expect from them. It won't be War and Peace, but it will be a common-sense booklet which we'll publish on behalf of our listeners and send to all MPs.

*working title until our listeners decide what it should be called.

Victoria Derbyshire presents her 5 live programme weekdays between 1000 and 1300


  • Comment number 1.

    I hope you're going to give Labour a right proper grilling over the years of lies, spin and cock-ups on Monday, Victoria...?!!

    Have a nice weekend.

  • Comment number 2.

    "Where's my comment?All new members are pre-moderated initially, which means that there will be a short delay between when you post your comment and when it appears while one of our moderators checks it."

    Er, I'm not a new member - I've had this registration for the better part of five years plus and used it almost daily...

  • Comment number 3.

    I hope that the issue of our promised EU Treaty referendum will not get sweeped under the carpet and ignored by the BBC. Labour has failed us on this as it has in so many areas. The biggest change in the UK constitution since the Act of Union 300 years ago and the BBC totally ignores it. Unbelievable.

  • Comment number 4.

    Can you let the Labour party know that they have wasted twelve years of power and have managed to create a society that is more socially and economically fractured then anything the previous Conservative administration managed to achieve. We've become a nation of box tickers where common sense os frowned upon and anybody who does use some initiative is frowned upon. Labour's brave new world is fine if everybody is five foot six tall and keeps walking in line. Having been a Labour supporter all my life and a member of the party in the past I find the constant revisionism and kow-towing to minority groups both unappealing and embarrassing. Yes minorities have rights but not at the expense of the freedoms of the majority.

  • Comment number 5.

    Will you ask what lies they intend putting in this next election manifesto? The whopper lie over the EU referendum means nothing they ever say can be believed.

  • Comment number 6.

    Brown has just told Marr that Labour did everything to keep inflation under control.
    Can you ask if this included paying illegal London cleaners £6 per hour in 2009, when the going rate was £11.50 per hour in 2003?

  • Comment number 7.

    Msg.4 & 5. Seconded!

  • Comment number 8.

    "Can anything save the Labour party?" asks Victoria, 1000BST, 28/09/09

    Well - no, quite frankly. They've repeated their predecessors mistake of bankrupting the country and creating a more devided, resentful, greedy, hateful society. Only, in 1979, their predecessors had the sense to go to the country and test public opinion. They rightfully lost. They're unelectable until the nation forgets the debacle of their disastrous "boom and bust" Big Brother minority-interests-first regime - and that will be a lon, long time as our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be paying off the Labour debt and you can bet your backside that the current opposition will make damn sure they know who lasnded them in the mess every time they're due to go to the polls.

    Just go now, dammit!

  • Comment number 9.

    Agree with comment no. 8.

    Also - PLEASE can you keep this 'blog' updated? Bournemouth? Brighton shurely? 24th Sept? NO - it's Monday, 28th Sept and it's the Labour Party Conference.

    Like comment no. 1 I also am hoping that this won't be another Beeb New Labour love-in and that there might be some challenges made to their spin and obfuscation.

  • Comment number 10.

    Well done Victoria on attempting to get La Flint to answer a question - she really is one of the most arrogant (ex) Ministers in the party. She just rides over everyone (witness her several appearances on Question Time) who dares to criticise and basically doesn't listen.

  • Comment number 11.

    Jack Straw still doesn't listen, doesn't understand and doesn't deserve to be re-elected.

  • Comment number 12.

    what Baldinio said

  • Comment number 13.

    Surely a more pertinent question is whether the Labour party deserved to be saved?

  • Comment number 14.

    Tony McNulty is a pompous windbag. And - Radio 5 Live's favourite Noo Labour MP is on the panel - the ubiqutuous John Mann (yawn...)

  • Comment number 15.

    Kinnock just said that Gordon Brown can't lose the election!! What's he been smoking? - I want some!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    "Jack Straw still doesn't listen, doesn't understand and doesn't deserve to be re-elected."

    He just blah, blah'd over all challenges with a formulaic - and completely deluded - series of non-answers. And he seriously believes he's going to have a ajob come next May...?

    These clowns are so out of touch they believe their own spin - and are in for a major shock when the returning officers are finished.

  • Comment number 17.

    Alaister Darkling obviously believes his own hype, too. "Today, we have forced the details of hundreds of thousands of offshroe bank accounts?"


    In 2005, the EU obliged any bank with a presence in the EU, even if the account holding branch is outside it, as mine is, to disclose all details of EU-resident account holders to the tax authorities in their countries of residence.

    Consequently, my accountant got hit with a flurry of extra bureaucracy, which near doubled their fee.

  • Comment number 18.

    I forgot to add to my last; don't believe the spin!!! From any of 'em, regardless of rosette colour.

    Why is it that they are all as bad as each other; grubby, self-serving, lying, penalising, power-mad, et al...?

    I really do feel like emigrating more andmore with each passing day.

  • Comment number 19.

    Blunkett is also another one who seems to think that "revitilisng" their image will be enough to hoodwink us into re-electing them.

    Do these people honestly believe what they say, or is it that they've only a couple of brain cells to share out amongst them?

    "Paid off the debt from the second world war in 2002." Yeah - and now you've promptly sunk us back into debt even greater than that which preceded it - the highest levels of borrowing on record, apparently.

  • Comment number 20.

    Hmmmm - not only deluded but dangerous, too!

  • Comment number 21.

    It is extremely irritating when politicians go on about not getting their message across. We have got the message loud and clear,they have blown it. Big Time!
    Gordon Brown, with his "I'm not quitting, I'm fighting" is beginning to sound "Punch Drunk". Pathetic, even.
    Wheeling out Mr Neil Kinnock to bang the drum is really scraping the bottom of the barrel!
    Neil Kinnock is first class example of a man making a huge success of being a failed politician!I have no doubt that however hard the recession bites, his family will not go short!
    Who will be wheeled out next? John Prescott? Well, least said, the better....

  • Comment number 22.

    "I hope that the issue of our promised EU Treaty referendum will not get sweeped under the carpet "
    Reply Message 3

    In October Ireland is going to vote for a second time on the "EU Treaty" -if they reject the Treaty again then the referendum promised by the Conservatives will be a moot point.
    If the Irish people vote as expected for the Treaty the Conservatives are bound to give the British people a referendum,when/if they form the next government.

  • Comment number 23.

    The reception Mandelson got shows just how morally corrupt Labour and its supporters have become.

  • Comment number 24.

    Am I the only one that noticed the launch of 5L's new 'improved' 'interactive' service coincides with the Labour Party Conference?

    Nothing to do with the likely comments on the old messageboard of course....

  • Comment number 25.

    Darling was as delusional as Kinnock was on Victorias programme this morning! Does he honestly think that the financial sector will roll over and take the bonus controls and teh rest of it? No, they'll make a few donations, whisper in a few ears, have their lawyers scrutinise the legislation to find the inevitable loopholes or they'll just up sticks and go elseswhere - and other nations will welcome them with flexible and loose regulation and tax breaks. It's beyond credibiility and credulity.

  • Comment number 26.

    We, or at least I, seem to be holding our ascerbic, cynical, sarcastic end up, MS!

  • Comment number 27.

    As if we on the now defunct 5live message board would say anything bad about the present government. Perish the thought!

  • Comment number 28.

    Good to hear that hypocrite Lord Kinnock on the radio this morning. A few more appearances by him, and any other EU trough feeders like his wife, and Labour will be in fourth place.

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks for your many interesting comments. I've brought them all to Victoria's attention and I'm hoping for a follow-up post when she's a bit less busy - probably after her programme with the Conservatives next week. And as to the fairly persistent idea that the 5 live messageboards were closed as part of a plan to silence debate in advance of the election or the conferences (in MarinSolitaire's comment, for instance), I've posted on that topic on another thread.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, 5 live blog

  • Comment number 30.

    Fascinating and somewhat typical I guess. A blog in a person's name which you just admitted she takes no part or interest in herself, but needs you to highlight things from it to her. A whole 29 comments, tough to have kept up with I guess!

    Blogs clearly are way beyond the capability of time or interest to BBC staff in whose name they are titled. Right across those I have seen it is rare if at all the 'owner' does more than post the initial item, and leaves.

    At root the concept of blogs is not suitable to the people who have them put upon them. Really they are, or want them to be, a simple personal column.

  • Comment number 31.

    JamesStGeorge You make a good point but I think we have to accept that busy presenters and journalists are always going to find it hard to make time to catch up with comments - especially those who are on-air for three hours per day! There are others, though, who've really made their blogs part of their work - look at Robert Peston's, for instance. He says that his comments have become a pretty important source of stories and angles. And Eddie Mair often refers to the PM blog on-air and some important stories have originated there.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, 5 live blog


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